Archive for the ‘politics and religion’ Category

Resisting in love or fear?

August 12, 2018

I continue to think about how we can have some level of assurance that our actions are aligned with God’s will (as best we understand it). This matters because people do all sorts of things, both good and bad, in God’s name and on God’s behalf.

Yesterday I suggested that humility needed to be a part of this process. Today I want to add in the idea of motive. You can pick your issue, but when Christians are involved on either side of the debate you can be sure all of us think we are doing God’s will. On the surface, our motive is to be faithful. But that is not the only thing that motivates us. We might ask ourselves what else is driving my actions and ideas? Are they arising out of fear? Or out of love, concern for the other? Fear is a powerful motivator for us humans- actually it is a powerful motivator for all creatures. You may remember this simple biological response to fear-  either fight or flight.

If we see the world around us as a dangerous place, we might withdraw from it. We close ourselves off into safe Christian areas. We might, however, decide to fight. To stand for what we believe is important. But when we act out of fear, we are almost by definition working to protect ourselves. We don’t have the emotional and rational energy to worry about anyone else- the other. In fact they, those others, may well be part of the problem.

If we are afraid of the stranger, the poor, the different, the “other” it will be hard- perhaps impossible to do anything but react in a way to preserve our sense of safety. Preying on our fears is a common strategy these days for politicians and preachers alike.

But the Bible urges us to go a different way. “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18).  “We love because he [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19)  Actually all of 1 John is helpful in thinking about this.

We need to be honest with ourselves about what our motives are. What emotions are driving our words and our actions. Are we motivated by fear? Or by love? It can be hard to know. Our minds are quite skilled at justifying our actions and telling us what we want to hear. But it is so important for us to be involved in the spiritual practices and disciplines that will help us recognize what our motivations are.

More on resistance

August 11, 2018

Yesterday I wrote about grounding our actions, especially social justice actions in faith. My friend Leslie commented, “A challenge because there are large groups who align with a faith or use faith as an reason for egregious behavior.”

And yes, she is correct. How can we know if we are truly centered in God’s will or simply kidding ourselves and using faith to justify the ideas and beliefs we already have?

It is a tough question. You can find well respected and/or popular religious figures on all sides of any issue.

One of the first things I was going to say was that we should be in conversation with people who think differently than we do. People who will challenge us. But for most of us, myself included, our religious homes don’t include a wide variety of beliefs or political views. All of us tend to hang out with folks who have similar values. There’s not much point in pretending otherwise.

Speaking as a Christian, I can read the Bible. But so do six day creationist and complementarians to name a couple of examples. Frustratingly it is possible for people to disagree about Biblical interpretation each having prayerfully and thoughtfully engaged the text.

We could add that if our actions promote justice and peace maybe that means we have properly aligned ourselves. Brain science tells us how incredible easy it is for us to convince ourselves that our motives are pure.

Are we loving? Surely that is a good criteria? I know people who think the loving thing to do is to tell LGBTQ folks they are going to hell. They sincerely believe that and feel that for the good of the other’s soul that they need to speak this “truth”. A lot of damage has been done by people who believe they are “speaking the truth in love.”

This isn’t easy, is it?  And Leslie’s comment needs to be taken seriously. Let’s hope that Ginger Gaines-Cirelli the author of Sacred Resistance will help me out with this question as I keep reading.

Today the only answer I have is humility. We need to consider carefully, prayerfully that we might be wrong and be open to change. Which, if we are honest, is hugely difficult. That’s what I’ve got tonight. I’d love to know if you have a better answer.




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